The difficulty I had was in
orienting myself. Looking astern there was no movement of
water aft so I was at tide change. When the tide switches the boat
can float in most any direction, usually facing the breeze.
This morning there was wind. Again, no clue.
The dolphin were in the harbor and
I did hear birds. Because the water fowl (cormorants, pelicans
and seagulls) generally are north of me that gave me my first clue
as to boat orientation. My eyes were not telling me enough and my
hearing is not so great so I opted for Old Faithful:
Old Faithful is my compass. I rely
on it when cruising. Yes, I've got my paper charts, and even
OpenCPN on the computer but the actual navigation is done by compass
heading. It's easier that way.
I am aware that those with the
full suite of navigation programs often voyage from way point to way
point. After 15,000 miles at the helm though I'm comfortable with
navigating via compass heading. I prefer the familiar, and grew up
aboard a 40'er before whiz bang electronics were invented. My
compass is dependable. It won't quit if I'm struck by lightning.
Of course it is important to keep
magnetic items away from the compass. I heard recently a fellow left
Florida for the Bahamas and had a cruising guide near his
compass. The metal in the spiral binding threw off his intended
arrival destination by forty miles. Forty miles at five knots...
well, you do the math. And yes, a GPS could have averted that by
alerting the gent to his track. But that's another article one
of these days.
Though my GPS is turned on when
underway, it's mostly to confirm speed. I'm still new enough
to this cruising bit (approaching six years aboard Seaweed) that I'm
not entirely accurate guessing my speed. Current affects SOG (speed
over ground) and wind does too. The GPS is helping me recognize the
signs that are outside and I will become more accurate with
Compasses are wonderful items and
having yours easily viewable from the helm is critical. On days like
today though? Even if my new engine were installed, I'd go no
place. Seaweed is not in a race. I'm already where I want to
Do you have radar for foggy days and dark nights?
And, do you consider your compass a critical component of your boat?